Marketing experts are in agreement that employees are important in creating brand value. However most often companies are focused on selling to external customers that they forget to win over the very constituencies responsible for generating brand value.
In the last article, I discussed the importance of creating a powerful brand culture through continuous engagement of internal stakeholders to relive the brand culture. In this article I focus on implementing a strategy to create competitive brands through internal marketing. George Cox, the Chief Executive of Unisys Ltd, once said: “To become genuinely customer focused you have to be prepared to change your culture, processes, systems and organization”.
Ian Buckingham, a renowned management consultant observes that, “Brands are built from within … [they] have very little to do with promises made through advertising. They’re all about promises met by employees.”
Internal marketing involves applying principles of consumer marketing to internal communication to enhance and sustain brand value. Elements of brand value include knowledge, preference, and financial performance. Below we examine each of the three elements and how companies can engage internal stakeholders to achieve brand value.
“Knowledge is power” is a centuries old adage that is relevant in internal marketing. Employees are often the first point of contact between the company and external stakeholders. Effort should be made to ensure that employees have thorough understanding of the corporate strategy and the overall strategic direction of organization.
In addition messages communicated to external audiences through various marketing communication programmes should be consistent with those shared with internal audiences to enable the company achieve its goals. Companies that have made employees their brand ambassadors often report strong performance in level of awareness about the brand. Internal marketing programmes have the ability to give employees a sense of purpose and direction which often translates into better services for external customers.
Brand preference comes from delivering superior customer service which depends on the ability to create superior customer experience from employee - the people responsible for delivering this service. Research has shown that strong internal marketing program often result increased market share.
Relationship marketing has become a buzz word for creating and sustaining brand preference. This principle needs to be used in engaging internal customers since relationships built with external customers will largely be dependent on the relationships built with employees. Managers should create a culture that generates brand preference among employees achieved through employee reward schemes and corporate loyalty programs.
Strong financial performance, as a key driver of brand value, is often a result of strong internal marketing. Various studies have shown that companies with strong internal and external marketing achieve better financial results when compare with those that focus on only external marketing.
Implementing an internal marketing communication campaign requires support from everyone within the organisation to ensure success of such campaigns. External marketing campaigns based on well executed internal marketing campaigns have the greatest potential for success since external campaigns will reinforce already existing employee attitudes and behaviour.
Author: Godwin Bonge Muhwezi is the Managing Partner of Brand Power Consulting. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.